Case Study: CME and Inclusivity at Quench Arts

Case Study: CME and Inclusivity at Quench Arts

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BY: Guest Writer
13 March 2024

In this blog we hear from Nicola Briggs, co-founder and Director of Quench Arts CIC Arts CIC, and student-turned-teacher Liz Birch, about their experiences of the Certificate in Music Education...

Quench Arts CIC is a community music organisation based in Birmingham. The organisation was established in 2012 by Nicola Briggs and Liz Viggers, with a mission that everyone should have access to high quality participatory arts opportunities, regardless of their situation and background.

Our work covers four strands: Early Years, Young People, Wellbeing and Training. Our journey with Trinity started with our positive experience delivering Arts Award and knowing about Trinity's excellent reputation as an exam provider. We were on the hunt for a solid provider offering a professional qualification that anyone could access, especially those facing barriers to traditional education. Our focus was on people without formal qualifications who still wanted to get an accredited course in music teaching.

We began delivering our ‘New Horizons’ course in 2000, to provide professional development training for musicians wanting to teach their instrument/voice. This was originally set up by Sound It Out and Birmingham Music Service (now Services for Education) to address diversity in its offer. However, after receiving feedback from trainees that the addition of an accreditation would benefit the course, we submitted an application to Trinity College London to become a validated centre for the CME. Our first course with the CME accreditation as an option started in 2021.

Right from the get-go, Trinity were super supportive and approachable, never making us feel silly for asking questions. Having a Trinity support manager, that we could reach out to, was a big plus. Throughout our journey, we had constant support, including from our EQA who gave us top-notch feedback on our portfolios, helping us understand the course in great detail and showing us how we could link research across units.

Delivering the CME had huge benefits for our staff, especially our up-and-coming music leaders. It encouraged us to keep learning, with a continuous professional development (CPD) document that was always evolving. The CME pushed for constant improvement, turning our team into reflective practitioners. Doing research as leaders and digging into different teaching methods has been super beneficial, and getting input from trainees through their portfolios has been invaluable.

But most importantly it opened doors for students who might not have had the chance to go to university. It changed the way they approached teaching music, seeing the bigger picture instead of just focusing on each lesson in isolation.

One particular student, Liz Burch, since her involvement with New Horizons, has transitioned into a full-time career as a musician and music educator. She has gained national recognition, winning the Youth Music's Inspirational Music Leader Award in 2023 and being featured as one of Mastercard's BRIT Awards music trailblazers in February 2024.

Growing up in a musical household, Liz was exposed to various genres and styles. Despite trying violin and cornet lessons without success, she self-taught piano and remained active in music through choir and local groups. At 8, she was diagnosed with Joint Hypermobility Disorder, limiting her physical activities. However, her creativity persisted, and she continued singing and joined community theatre despite becoming a wheelchair user. Moving to the West Midlands, she faced mental health struggles leading to her being signed off from secondary school as a teenager but she found solace in various music programmes.

Rejected by a music college, she pursued self-taught songwriting and music production. Although facing social challenges in college, she earned a songwriting diploma. Opting out of traditional education, Liz found purpose in community music initiatives like Mac Makes Music, aiming to inspire others through her experiences.  She then applied successfully for a young music leader role at Quench Arts which had a bursary attached for her to complete the Certificate for Music Educators qualification. Liz said about her experience:

'The knowledge and experience I have received from this programme are invaluable to me; I never would’ve been able to understand the impact of teaching as deeply if I hadn’t been given this opportunity. I feel that many people take teaching for granted with a casual comment such as, ‘well even I could do that’, some even assuming power comes with the job. Teaching and facilitating are so much more than the superficial label some pin on them. Calling myself a ‘teacher’ used to be strange, uncomfortable; it felt like I was heightening my sense of importance above the students which I didn’t want! Yet from the moment I entered this CME training, it clicked; it doesn’t have to be that way. New Horizons and the CME programme broke that stigma of ‘teacher’ for me. I would argue that during my time leading, I have learnt just as much, if not more from the participants and students. That is true teaching.’

Liz is committed to balancing performing, composing, and music education, advocating for youth empowerment and accessibility in music. She emphasizes the importance of amplifying youth voices and ensuring everyone can explore creative expression, inspired by her own journey from participant to community practitioner in community music.

'I feel it had come full circle for me, from being a participant of community music to being a community practitioner. I had seen and experienced the impact of community music and CME first hand and it had ignited me to want to spread that impact beyond myself.'

Based upon our experience at Quench Arts I'd totally recommend the CME as a professional qualification and CPD option that will benefit both staff and students.

To find out more about Quench Arts visit and to find out more about their New Horizons programme visit . If you would like information on becoming a CME validated centre please use this link or visit .

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